The Lookout

Letters sent from Nazi labor camp delivered 70 years later

The Lookout
Letters sent from Nazi labor camp delivered 70 years later
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Carolyn Porter with one of the letters she found. (Courtesy Carolyn Porter)

This story spans generations and continents, and involves a man sent to a Nazi labor camp in World War II, his family back in France, and an antique letter collector in the United States who reunited the lost notes with the family.

Here's what happened. Marcel Heuzé, a French tool worker, was deported to a German work camp in 1942 during the war. He built engines, armored vehicles and tanks at the Daimler-Benz factory, from where he sent letters back home to his wife and three daughters.

Many apparently never made it to their intended recipients, probably intercepted by German censors.

Enter Carolyn Porter. The American graphic designer with a love of typography,  spotted the French missives back in 2002 in an antiques store in Minnesota. What caught her eye was the elegant script. She noted in an email to Yahoo, "The letters were written in French, and even though I couldn't read them, it was obvious that they were written with care."

The first letter was translated during the summer of 2011. One by one  all five letters were translated and Porter started putting together the pieces to the puzzle.

The amateur sleuth, with the help of a genealogy researcher, tracked down Heuzé's family, contacted them by letter and email, and turned over the letters to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  Heuzé, who was released from the camp in 1944 and returned to his family, died 20 years ago.

A second batch of letters was uncovered in California, and Porter noted that this group will be shared with the family in person. Wrote Porter, "It's been a few months since the first five letters were shared with the family, and honestly, I still get emotional when I think about it."

Tiffanie Raux, 24, Heuzé's great-granddaughter, told the Telegraph that the family was grateful to Porter for her "altruistic" gesture. "It's very American," she said. "I'm not sure people in France would have gone to all that trouble."

For her part, Porter told the publication she had hoped for a happy ending, which she herself delivered.

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